Review: Filson Original Briefcase

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Filson original briefcase in navy.

I’ve recently been on the hunt for a new laptop bag to use on a daily basis and also at professional events. This bag has to tick several checkmarks: long strap, non-black, compact, and stylish. It should hold my laptop, a couple of papers, and the usual wallet/keys/phone/chapstick, and have a long strap for hands-free usage. After seeing a sale for $200, I pulled the trigger on the Filson Original Briefcase, which is well-reviewed. Before clicking the “Buy” button, though, one of the things I searched for but couldn’t find were pictures of women wearing the bag, to see the proportions. Sure, I checked the measurements, but seeing the bag against a female body gives such a better sense of perspective. Hence, this review.

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Modeling the bag.

Pros of the Filson bag:

  • Quality: The bag is very well-made. The canvas and leather are both very thick and sturdy. The zipper has huge teeth (like luggage) and long leather pulls. The bag opening is reinforced with leather panels. The snaps have a satisfying “snap”.
  • Style: While this is quite personal, I like the style of the Filson. It looks professional with a dash of hipster due to the canvas material, so it’s not too stodgy. Carrying it makes me feel “professorial”. Hey, fake it ’til you make it, right?

Cons of the Filson bag:

  • Size: My main gripe with the bag is that it is HUGE. I did look at the measurements beforehand and compare it with my other bags, but somehow it’s just much bigger in person. You can see how disproportionately large it is in the side-view photo above. These bag manufacturers need to understand that not everyone is a 6′ male! (For reference, I’m 5’5″.) If they made a smaller version of the bag, I would be a fan.
  • Heavy: Due to the quality of the bag, it is really heavy. According to the specs, it weights more than 3 pounds. If I already blew a ton of money on a Macbook to shave off 0.5 pounds, why would I buy a $200 bag that increases the weight?
  • Stiff strap: This is probably supposed to be a feature, but the leather is incredibly stiff. This isn’t a problem for the handles, but it’s a problem for the shoulder pad, which juts out uncomfortably when wearing the bag.

Because of all these cons (mainly the size), I decided to return the bag. The search continues!

Side note: Brooks Brothers, where I ordered the bag from, has the worst customer service. It took 2 weeks for them to ship out my order. I tried calling them, but got fed up after waiting on hold for 15 minutes. I emailed customer service, but never got a reply. Update: They also have a very annoying return policy where I brought the item to the store to return and they couldn’t refund my credit card right away (they had to mail the bag to another store).

In the meantime, here are the bags I have in rotation right now:

  • Michael Kors Jet Set tote: I’m not generally a big fan of Michael Kors, but I managed to find this non-blinged-out tote which is actually quite nice. What I like about this tote is its bajillion pockets. There’s a built-in laptop sleeve, pen pockets, phone pockets, key clip, and card slots. The killer thing it’s missing is a long strap to go handsfree. I’ll probably keep this bag for scenarios where I don’t need a long strap.
  • STM Blazer padded sleeve: This is my “dorky” bag which is great for coffee shop visits. What I don’t like is the quality of the material: it’s lightweight and you can see the outline of any items inside the pocket. It’s exactly the opposite of a nice, dense, high-quality material.

Here are some potential candidates that I’m considering:

  • Tom Bihn Daylight Briefcase: This one seems well-designed and the right size. The quality of the other Tom Bihn items I have is excellent. However, it has a very utilitarian look, which is probably fine for daytime, but would look out of place post-work.
  • Waterfield Cycling Musette: This has the SF tech look. While I like the design, the weathered canvas material feels too hipster to me. It also doesn’t have any pockets or laptop sleeve.

Since I’m not sold on any of these other bag options, I’m holding off on purchasing anything for now. The bags I currently own are serving their purpose well enough, so it’s not an urgent need. I’ll keep an eye out and continue to dream of the (super important) day that there are stylish, long-strap, proportionally-sized laptop bags for women…

Do you have a “Goldilocks” item that you’re searching for? Any suggestions for laptop bags to help a girl out?

2 thoughts on “Review: Filson Original Briefcase

  1. Alas, I don’t have enough experience with crossbody laptop bags (I end up preferring either a laptop or a tote bag, depending on the occasion) to make good recommendations in this area. The one bag I thought of was the Lo & Sons Brookline, which I think is one of their less popular styles because it doesn’t comfortably carry that much extra besides the laptop and maybe a folder or two and most of their customer base prefers the OMG or OG (which carries a lot more) or the Seville (a sleeker tote which I think potentially also carries more). One of my taller (5’6” ish, athletic build) colleagues used to carry the Brookline, and it doesn’t seem too bulky on her.

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    • Thanks for the recommendations! I love the sleekness and organizational pockets of Lo & Sons’ laptop bags, thanks for pointing them out. I usually just think of their travel bags. I wish I could merge the two designs you mentioned and have the leather of the Seville and the crossbody strap of the Brookline, that would be perfect… wonder if adding a strap is a possible DIY…

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